Wednesday, November 15, 2017

From the Handbook: Paul Molitor, manager (of the year)

Paul Molitor was named American League Manager of the Year Tuesday. So we'll jump ahead to the the manager stats section of the Handbook.

To repeat a core philosophy about evaluating managers: the in-game aspect of the job may be the most visible, and it may be the least important.

That was true 10 years ago, and it's even more true now, with the analytics having pretty throughly peremated the game. In-game moves have flattened out.

For example: the 15 American Leauge teams ranged from 47 to 16 sacrifice bunt attempts (and no, Molitor did not lead the league in bunting; that would be Rick Renteria of the White Sox). Twenty years ago, in the middle of the steroid era and without interleague play, five AL teams had more than 47 successful sacrifices (and obviously more attempts than that). Twenty years before THAT, in 1977, an AL team sacrified 116 times (Texas). The sacrifice bunt has largely left the game; if not for pitchers, it would be virtually extinct.

Molitor, as noted above, did not lead the league in bunts. But he was close; the Twins attempted 46 sac bunts.

What he did lead the league in was failed intentional walks. And it's something of a pattern.

BIS catagorizes intentional walks as "good," "not good" and "bomb". IBB that are immediately followed by a double play or in which no runs are scored after the IBB are deemed "good." If there is no DP and one run scores after the IBB, it's "not good." And if there is no DP and multiple runs score, it's a "bomb."

Molitor called 37 intentional walks in 2017, tied for second most in the AL. Only 19 were "good." The other 18 were "not good" -- most in the league -- and 11 were "bombs," also most in the league.

It's the second straight season that Molitor has led the AL in bombs. His IBB have largely just added fuel to the fires.


MOY is a odd award in this sense: Like the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young, it goes to somebody who had a good year -- but generally to somebody who wasn't expected to have a good year.

Narratives matter in the other writer votes, of course -- they're writers, and they make their living telling stories -- but the narrative is front-and-center in the manager voting.

Molitor certainly had the narrative. Last year of contract, unfamiliar bosses in the front office, coming off a 103-loss season, a veteran starter and his closer dealt away at the deadline -- and he still got the team above .500 and into the playoffs. And he got a new contract.

The tricky thing about MOY is that the shine diminishes fairly rapidly. Because the game's equilibrium is perpetually set at .500, managers who preside over a sudden rise in the standings often find themselves presiding over a sudden decline -- and frequently out of favor soon after capturing the award.

1 comment:

  1. Once a manager becomes good (winning record)he must become very good (makes the playoffs). Once he becomes very good he must become excellent (wins championship). If he doesn't win a championship he gets fired (Dusty Baker). This is just an example but it seems that as a manager improves he must continue to meet higher expectations.